In a strategic partnership, aerospace giant Boeing and defense specialist Kratos Defense & Security Solutions have inked a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at enhancing the capabilities of precision munitions. Their focus is on developing a transformative jet-turbine-powered kit that can convert a conventional 500-lb (228-kg) “dumb” iron bomb into a highly accurate miniature cruise missile.
The origins of this innovation can be traced back to the 1990s when McDonnell Douglas, in collaboration with other partners, introduced a game-changing bolt-on kit known as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). This kit essentially transformed ordinary iron bombs into precision munitions without requiring any structural modification of the bomb itself. It incorporated a range of cutting-edge components, such as a guidance system, GPS navigation, seeker sensors, and a tail-mounted steering system, enabling these bombs to achieve pinpoint accuracy even in day/night conditions and adverse weather. They could strike their targets within a mere 16 feet (5 meters) with a flight time of under 100 seconds for the standard JDAM kit.
The challenge with the existing JDAM kits lies in their limited range, which extends to about 16 miles (24 km) for the standard version and up to 46 miles (72 km) for the extended range version that boasts folding wings. Boeing has proposed an advanced kit known as the Power JDAM to address this limitation since 2010. This innovation incorporates a jet engine, fuel tanks, and support systems, essentially transforming the bomb into a small cruise missile. These cruise missiles can be launched from 4th-generation fighter aircraft, serving as stand-off weapons.
The vision for the Power JDAM has now gained momentum with Kratos onboard. Kratos is contributing its TDI-J85 turbine engine, generating 200 pounds of thrust, to propel the Power JDAM. This addition is expected to enhance the cost-effectiveness of the kit and make it available for export to the 35 nations currently employing the JDAM system. Furthermore, the TDI-J85 engine generates 1.5 kilowatts of AC power, crucial for powering the JDAM’s onboard systems.
Bob Ciesla, Vice President of Boeing Precision Engagement Systems, expressed, “Powered JDAM is the next step in the modular evolution of the JDAM and JDAM Extended Range family of weapons systems. Its ability to complement exquisite weapons systems with low-cost stand-off capability will add new weapons capacity to the U.S. defense industrial base to support the current fight and deter future fights.”
All in all, te recent collaboration between Boeing and Kratos promises to usher in a new era of precision munitions, offering the potential to extend the reach and effectiveness of existing JDAM kits, and thereby enhancing the capabilities of the U.S. defense arsenal for both present and future conflicts.